Super Bowl LIII review: Different kind of excitement for Patriots
I don’t know about you, but I found this game fascinating. Yes, it was a punt-fest but watching an explosive team get bottled up in the biggest game of the year while the margin remained tight seemed dramatic enough for me. The only thing the game was missing was a cliff-hanging ending the way all other Patriots Super Bowls in the Brady-Belichick Era delivered.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RAN
It started out fine -- the Patriots ran for 13, 6, 5 and 3 on their first four carries of the game -- but the Rams settled in with the quickness and allowed just 17 yards on the next 11 Patriots carries before halftime. But when it got down to crunch time, the Patriots were able to grind it out on the ground following Stephon Gilmore’s interception with 4:24 remaining. There were a pair of 26-yard runs on the Patriots final drive when the Rams desperately needed a stop and New England finished with 154 yards on 32 carries.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASSED
The Rams and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips did a terrific job disguising against Brady whose first throw of the game was picked. But the Rams inability to cover Julian Edelman was part of their undoing. Edelman, the game’s MVP wound up with 141 yards on 10 catches. He did most of his damage in the first two quarters and his 25-yard reception helped set up the only first-half scoring. Meanwhile, Gronk caught two passes for 47 yards on the team’s lone touchdown drive, including the 29-yarder that set up the Sony Michel score. Brady’s numbers were OK -- 21 for 35 for 262 yards and the pick -- while getting virtually nothing from his 10 throws to James White and Chris Hogan (1 catch for White for 5 yards). The Rams had a lot to do with the trouble he had.
WHEN THE RAMS RAN
The Patriots were, once again, terrific against the run. It’s like it isn’t even the same team that couldn’t get it done against the Dolphins and Steelers in successive weeks in December. “Gap discipline,” was the response from Rams running back C.J. Anderson when asked why it was such tough sledding. The Patriots allowed 62 yards on 18 carries and the plan to put the game on Jared Goff’s arm worked perfectly.
WHEN THE RAMS PASSED
The marriage of rush and coverage was made in heaven. Goff was sacked four times, he was picked off by Gilmore when the Patriots dialed up a zero blitz, he probably only had about five or six throws all night that made it easy to understand why he was the No. 1 overall pick. In short, he’s a nice player and McVay’s a nice coach but on this night the inexperience of both made all the difference in the world. Goff’s number -- 19-for-38 for 229 -- don’t do justice to how much he struggled. And even when the Patriots defense did blink -- a busted coverage that led to Brandon Cooks (8 catches for 120 yards) being uncovered in the back of the end zone) -- they covered it up quickly and came out OK.
Even with the missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski in the first half, this was still a special teams rout by the Patriots as Ryan Allen had punts downed at the 2, 6 and 7 yard lines. Matt Slater was a beast on coverage. Cordarelle Patterson opened the game with a 38-yard kickoff return and Gostkowski atoned for the miss with two field goals later, including the clincher with less than two minutes left. Rams punter Johnny Hekker punted nine times. Nine.
Rams head coach Sean McVay said it all when he said he was “outcoached.” From not preparing his team for the noise inside the dome by piping in sound during practice, to four presnap penalties and another for having too many men on the field, the Rams got undone by the Patriots coaching staff. Josh McDaniels took a while to pull the right levers and the fourth-and-1 effort in the first half felt like a case of the Patriots chasing points, but his move to go two tight ends but run out of a spread formation gave Brady matchups galore and helped New England get downfield the one time it needed to.